“What’s behind your back?” My toddler daughter stood next to my bed with a strange look on her face and both hands behind her. I knew she was hiding something. I just hoped it wasn’t a kitchen knife.
She shook her head, “Me not want to tell you.”
I approached her carefully. Surprisingly, she didn’t run away. Behind her back I found a half eaten candy bar. The other half, I presumed, was in her tummy. This happened after I told her flat out no more candy before dinner. I asked, “Did you eat candy after I told you not to?”
“No,” she answered. Then my daughter stood there all smiley and cute.
My baby lied to me. She lied like she invented it. She did it quickly, convincingly, and with minimal remorse. All I could think of was how much bigger her lies would get, and how much better she’s going to be at lying when she becomes a teenager. I thought, this one is going to be trouble.
Is she showing me her true colors? Is my cute-little-sweet-squishy baby girl a born liar?
It got me wondering — is lying an innate skill or a learned one? And what does this really say about my baby? Surprisingly, Dr. Google says toddlers who tell lies may have advanced cognitive skills, like a diabolical criminal mastermind (I added that last part). Apparently lying is a complicated skill. It’s a sign of early intelligence and requires my cute-little-sweet-squishy baby girl to know how to pander to her audience, namely me, and tell me what she thinks I want to hear, not dissimilar to a master showman who runs for high office. Some psychologists suggest toddlers lie because they can’t distinguish between reality and fantasy, again an asset along with her tiny hands which may propel her to high office.
So, I guess I’m raising the first woman president?
The advice is for parents not to put their toddler on the spot, so of course the first thing I said was, “Did you just lie to your mommy?” My tiny Punky-Cutester blinked her adorable baby blues and answered, “No.”
She lied again. She ran away. I chased her into the kitchen and got there in time to see her throw the half eaten candy bar into the junk food basket on the counter (which is right next to the fruit bowl, btw). She giggled the whole time. I asked, “What are you doing?”
“Nuh-fing,” she answered. Then tried to look all innocent but it only came across as adorable.
I’m pretty certain the Candy Bar Lie (yes, I’ve named the incident) is my daughter’s gateway lie. It will be a slippery slope toward a lifetime of far-fetched cover-ups and shirking responsibility.
There’s a common misconception that kids don’t lie. Hahahahahaha. Of course they do! Anyone who has kids knows this. They lie to get things, they lie to get out of things, they lie to please us, they lie because it’s Tuesday and other ridiculous reasons. Dr. Google says it’s a completely normal developmental process. I just don’t want my baby to lie to me. Ever.
My sister is an early childhood expert and she explained I shouldn’t worry about my daughter telling lies unless she shows no remorse. Uh oh. I looked at my daughter after flinging the candy bar into the basket, I swear, she looked proud of herself.
I’m not used to living with a good liar. My sons were both bad liars. My middle one likes to tell people my husband and I once left him and his brother home alone while we went to a wedding. Of course this never happened. I advised him if he’s going to lie it should at least be rooted in reality. For all his smarts he never learned this fundamental truth about lying, which is why another time, after staying at my sister’s house, he told me his Aunt washed his hair with poo. Upon further grilling he recanted and to save face insisted he meant to say “shampoo.” I once asked my older son what was the worst lie he ever told me. He responded, “That I brushed my teeth when I didn’t.” See, bad liars.
But the girl child impresses me with her natural ability.
Back in the 80s I was allowed to go to a Bruce Springsteen concert because I told my father he was a Jewish rock star. Maybe I repressed all the other lies I’ve told my parents, but that’s the only one I remember. I’m sure I lied about drinking and covered my tracks when I was actually doing stupid things with my friends, but the specifics evade my memory. The world has changed so much I can’t bear the thought of someday being on the receiving end of my daughter’s lies about her whereabouts.
I have to nip this in the bud. But how?
Dr. Google says there’s not much I can or should do. Lying is a developmental milestone and should be celebrated (I added that last part).
So I guess I’ll tell you I’m proud my baby girl fibbed to my face…but that would be a lie.